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Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins celebrates after scoring against the Anaheim Ducks during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson). AP Photo/Chris Carlson
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Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zack Kassian are both expected to return to action Sunday night when the Edmonton Oilers host the Buffalo Sabres.
“I feel really good,” said Nugent-Hopkins, who has missed six games after a hand issue. “It’s been a bit of a process. Felt good yesterday, even better today.”
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“It’s only been three games, but it seems way longer than that,” said Kassian, who has been hampered by a sore back.
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With Nugent-Hopkins returning, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid will be reunited on the Oilers top line. Nugent-Hopkins will slide back into his second line centre slot.
“I just gives our team so much more depth,” said Draisaitl. “He plays in all situations. He’s very good in all situations.”
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“Nuge is significant because we need that depth at centre,” said head coach Dave Tippett. “He’s a guy who just plays in all the situations and is smart in all the situations.
“He makes other players around him better.”
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The Oilers went 3-3 without Nugent-Hopkins in the lineup. On Friday, they beat Los Angeles 2-1 despite being outshot 36-20.
“You look at the guts of the game. L.A. is a volume shooting team. A big percentage of those shots I wouldn’t even call scoring chances,” said Tippett. “When I watched the game here today, it wasn’t a concern of mine.”
Oscar Klefbom and James Neal didn’t practice Sunday but are expected to play against the Sabres. Mike Smith is the probable starter in goal.
The Oilers and Sabres will be on 630 CHED with the Face-off Show at 4:30 p.m. The game starts at 6 p.m.